After a traumatic injury, one athlete refused to quit and powered on to help others.
True
Nature Valley

Roy Tuscany had spent most of his life on the slopes, training in the hopes of one day competing in the Olympics.

The only Vermonter in his family to develop a love for skiing, he knew it would become his destiny. He focused his entire life around the sport and moved west to Lake Tahoe, where he could teach kids and train.

But one day, his ambition got the best of him — or so it seemed. He ignored what he taught his students and hit a jump on new skis while the snow was harder and the wind was stronger.


High Fives founder Roy Tuscany in Vermont. Photo by Brooks Curran.

The allure was too strong to consider any of the above, drowned out by the call of the sensation of the flight, the distance, and the perfect jump.

Going 130 feet on a 100-foot jump, the impact onto ground instantly paralyzed him from the belly down, and he lost motor skills, sensation, feeling.

When your entire life is about mountain sports, a paralyzing injury isn’t something that keeps you off the slopes — no matter how traumatizing the experience. Swearing off skiing just wasn’t an option. "I knew I didn't want to sulk, and I knew the next move would have to change for me to stay on this path," he says.

Roy Tuscany. Photo by Generikal Design.

Tuscany was surrounded by a network of not just medical professionals, but personal friends, family, and community members who supported his recovery on all levels every step of the way.  

He underwent multiple surgeries, including the insertion of two rods, eight screws, and two plates placed in his back to stabilize and support his spine, followed by Achilles-tendon-lengthening surgery on each ankle that would allow his feet to be flat.

Roy Tuscany in recovery. Photo via High Fives Foundation.

But just learning to ski again wasn’t enough. He wanted to do more.

His traumatic injury became the catalyst that caused him to offer a hand to other athletes who had experienced the same.

Determined to pay forward all the support he had received, he created a foundation to raise injury prevention awareness for athletes who have experienced life-altering injuries. They also provide rehabilitation services and financial support for medical treatment.

High Fives athlete at Adaptive Waterski Camp. Photo by High Fives Foundation via GoPro.

In addition to helping with rehabilitation, the foundation gives athletes a bit more knowledge through its educational program to help prevent another accident  

"For a long time, parents told us we supported daredevils who get hurt, so we created this presentation to help them make better choices," Tuscany says.

A High Fives athlete at the foundation's rehab facility. Photo by Elevated Image Photography.

Known as the BASICS program (an acronym for Be Aware Safe In Critical Situations), the curriculum highlights some of the most frequent but commonly disregarded key safety measures athletes make, like listening to your intuition instead of your ego and increasing your speed without being aware of the consequences.

It's a presentation they travel the country to deliver in person, and it can also be viewed online, with over 225,000 views to date.

Even the name Tuscany chose — the High Fives Foundation — reflects the positivity he received.

One day, after a specific surgery, he held up his hand for his doctor, who had just told him it went well, to slap it.

High Fives members. Photo by Generikal Design.

"After that, it was always high-fives all around because it’s impossible to give a high-five and not feel an exchange of positivity," Tuscany says.

The High Fives Foundation officially got off the ground in 2009.

To date, it has helped 159 athletes from 31 states get rehabilitated and back out there.

The first athlete the foundation helped had been hurt in a skiing accident. The foundation raised $25,000 in its first year — largely through word of mouth — enabling them to offer that skier personal training, a gym membership, ski lessons, and equipment to help get him ready to hit the slopes again.

"We started with [that] one program, an empowerment fund, and were able to grow," Tuscany says, "so that when insurance says 'no,' we say 'yes,' when they suffer life-altering injuries, even if it’s from a car accident."

Military to the Mountain participants on the slopes. Photo by Generikal Design.

At the adaptive camps, athletes who live with permanently altered abilities can take part in the sports they love.

This includes water skiing, surfing, and mountain climbing.

High Fives has also started a program for veterans who have been wounded in the line of duty.

They are given nine weeks of group training for skiing and snowboarding and a full week to hit the slopes. "Individuals volunteer once a week because they’ve built relationships and friendships with members of the staff," Tuscany says. "These guys have the biggest hearts in the world."

Athlete Jeff Andrews and Roy Tuscany. Photo by ClarkBourne Creative.

One snowboarder particularly grateful for the support is Jeff Andrews, who became paralyzed from the middle of his sternum downward.

The High Fives Foundation was there for him during his entire recovery. The organization also sent him on a trip to Hawaii, where he was able to learn to surf. And this experience was transformative for him — giving him a new goal to strive for: become the best surfer he could be.

And three weeks ago, Jeff decided he wanted to go to the U.S. World Surfing Championships.

He won first place in the U.S. Adaptive Division, proving that it’s not just ice or snow that can be healing.

Photo by ClarkBourne Creative.

Folks with disabilities, with little to no function, can move a little in ocean water, according to High Fives's founder.

"The motion is magnified by, like, 100," Tuscany says. "These little twists out of the water are moving. It’s such a positive rush. All of a sudden, your foot and legs are moving."

In addition to the unique "human-care" component that sets it apart from some similar organizations out there, the High Five Foundations Empowerment Grant paves the way for each individual to find their own path back to action.

"We bring everyone into our Ohana, a super powerful term in the Hawaiian culture to define family," Tuscany says. "When you care about the human, the results are endless in their pursuit."

Update 8/15/2017: The share image was changed.

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Over the past 30-plus years, there has been a sea change when it comes to public attitudes about LGBT issues in America. In 1988, only 11% of Americans supported same-sex marriage, while in 2020, that number jumped to 70%

Even though there is a lot more work to do for full LGBTQ equality in the U.S. the country is far ahead of most of the world. According to Human Dignity Trust, 71 jurisdictions around the world "criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity," many of these specifically calling out sexual practices between men.

In 11 jurisdictions, people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual activity face the possibility of the death penalty for their behavior. "At least 6 of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen – and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE," Human Dignity Trust says.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!